September 27/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
He who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed. For that man shouldn’t think that he will receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways
The Letter from James 01/01-26/:" James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are in the Dispersion: Greetings. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various temptations, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let endurance have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, without any doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed. For that man shouldn’t think that he will receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. But let the brother in humble circumstances glory in his high position; and the rich, in that he is made humble, because like the flower in the grass, he will pass away. For the sun arises with the scorching wind and withers the grass, and the flower in it falls, and the beauty of its appearance perishes. So the rich man will also fade away in his pursuits. Blessed is a person who endures temptation, for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love him. Let no man say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God,” for God can’t be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed. Then the lust, when it has conceived, bears sin. The sin, when it is full grown, produces death. Don’t be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, nor turning shadow. Of his own will he gave birth to us by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
So, then, my beloved brothers, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; for the anger of man doesn’t produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore, putting away all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness, receive with humility the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.† But be doers of the word, and not only hearers, deluding your own selves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his natural face in a mirror; for he sees himself, and goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of freedom and continues, not being a hearer who forgets, but a doer of the work, this man will be blessed in what he does. If anyone among you thinks himself to be religious while he doesn’t bridle his tongue, but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is worthless. 27 Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 26-27/17
Confronting North Korean and Iran/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/September 26/17
A Jewish-Catholic Partnership against Islamist Violence/Lawrence A. Franklin/Gatestone Institute/September 26/17
Europeans: Trump can win on Iran without ending nuclear deal/Laura Rozen/Al Monitor/September 26, 2017
Putin in Ankara to forge alliance of Russia, Turkey and Iran/Shehab Al-Makahleh/Arabiya/September 26/17
What next for Kuwaiti-North Korean relations/Giorgio Cafiero/Arabiya/September 26/17
Why the UAE celebrates Saudi national day/Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Arabiya/September 26/17

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on September 26-27/17
Macron Promises Aoun to Organize Three Conferences to Help Lebanon
In Paris, Aoun Says Syrian Refugees Must Return Home
Aoun visits French Senate
Govt. Fails to Resolve Wage Scale Crisis as Teachers, Employees Stage Strike, Protest
Berri deems wage scale right to its recipients
Cabinet to meet Thursday in Baabda to decide about salaries scale and tax hike law
Constitutional Council Head Lashes Out after Criticism
New UK-German MOU in Support of Lebanese Army
GLC announces general strike Wednesday, Thursday
UCC announces ongoing strike tomorrow and after tomorrow
Future bloc berates BassilMoallem meeting as 'blatant attack' on government
Khalil to Propose 'Solution' as Khoury Says Govt. Inclined to Pay Hiked Wages
Syrian Children in Lebanon Find Music School Away from Home
Lebanon civil servants on strike amid wage hike crisis

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 26-27/17

Democratic Union Party: We will Defend Kurdistan if Attacked
Iran’s Guards Use Aerial Guided-Missile Attacks to Back Regime Troops in Syria
Qatari FM: ‘Quatret States Present Doha As Gift for Tehran’
Iraqi Kurd leader Barzani: Majority of Kurdistan voted ‘yes’ for independence
Erdogan tells Iraqi Kurds they will go hungry if Turkey imposes sanctions
US warns Kurdistan referendum will ‘increase instability’
Iraq’s PM Abadi refuses talks with Kurds over independence vote results
Iran warns of regional chaos from Iraqi Kurd vote
UN hikes Rohingya exodus number to 480,000
Three Israelis killed in suspected gun attack on West Bank settlement
Saudi Arabia: King Salman orders driving licenses for women
Mattis Says U.S. Wants Diplomatic Fix for North Korea Crisis
UN envoy says Israel ignoring UN demand to halt settlements
MWL Secretary General: No Religion Is Free from Extremist Elements
Mladenov: Cairo Agreements are the Palestinians’ Last Chance
Palestinian PM to Visit Gaza for First Time in Years
Israel: Three Police Security Guards Killered Haradar
Cairo, Abu Dhabi Call for Facing Attempts to Destabilize Regional Security

Latest Lebanese Related News published on September 26-27/17
Macron Promises Aoun to Organize Three Conferences to Help Lebanon
Asharq Al Awsat/September 26/17/Paris- French President Emmanuel Macron asserted on Monday with his guest Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who is on an official trip to Paris, that conditions were not yet suitable for the safe return of the Syrian refugees to their country, revealing contradictions in the file of the Syrian war and the fate of the refugees. Macron, however, promised organizing three conferences to support Lebanon: A donor conference to encourage investment, a conference for the Syrian refugees and another one to aid the Lebanese Army in coordination with Italy and the UN. French presidential sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the donor conference that Paris is planning to hold in the next few months in Beirut concerning the Syrian refugees “does not aim to push for their return to Syria or to speed it up, but rather to lessen the burdens placed on Lebanon and to discuss their needs and the means of accepting them in the hosting environments.”For his part, reading a paper after his meeting with the French President, Aoun said: “I pointed out to Macron the need to plan the return of the Syrian refugees to their country, particularly that the most areas from where they came is now safe. In this case, we can’t wait for them to voluntarily leave Lebanon.”The Lebanese president added that Syrian refugees “are living in a difficult situation.”Same as in every occasion, Macron stressed that France is keen on Lebanon’s sovereignty, unity, and integrity. During a joint press conference at the Elysee, the French president saluted the bravery of the Lebanese Army in fighting terrorism,” but added that it does not mean the end of the terrorist threats in Lebanon. “France’s goal is to confront the dangers that undermine peace in Lebanon by strengthening the capabilities of the army so the Lebanese government can take control of the entire territory,” he said.

In Paris, Aoun Says Syrian Refugees Must Return Home
Associated Press/Naharnet 26/17/President Michel Aoun has said from Paris he wants some 1.5 million Syrian refugees living in Lebanon to henceforth start returning to their homes, voluntarily or not. Aoun, in a state visit to France, said that U.N. assistance given to aid Syrian refugees in "camps of misery" in Lebanon would be better used to return them to their country "from now on.""We don't want to wait for their voluntary return," Aoun insisted, speaking at the Elysee Palace alongside French President Emmanuel Macron.Aoun said that most of the Syrian regions from which the refugees hail are "now secure."Macron distanced himself from his counterpart's viewpoint, saying that the absence of a political solution in Syria prevents refugees from returning back home permanently.

Aoun visits French Senate
Tue 26 Sep 2017/NNA - President of the republic, Michel Aoun, on Tuesday visited the French Senate at the Luxembourg Palace, where he was received by its head Gerard Larcher. The pair held talks over an array of affairs of common interest, especially "Lebanon's position from terrorism following the victory scored by the Lebanese army against Daesh, in addition to the situation in Syria and the displaced Syrians' issue." Talks also touched on the current general economic situation, as well as most recent developments in the Middle East. During the meeting, both sides dwelt on the efforts exerted by France in order to help Lebanon, through the conferences that are being prepared for with the view of assisting the Lebanese Armed Forces, in addition to the scope of investments in Lebanon. The pair did not fail to evaluate the recent developments on the international scene, as well as the condition of the Christians in the East.

Aoun From Paris Hotel de Ville: Lebanese and French capitals leading peace protection battle

Tue 26 Sep 2017/NNA - President of the republic, Michel Aoun, on Tuesday maintained that Paris and Beirut were leading nowadays one same battle to protect the values of peace, freedom, and democracy. "Paris and Beirut are two strong cities that are capable of resistance; they are both open to the world and they were both able to contain a mixture of civilizations," Aoun said during his meeting with the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, at the French capital's Hôtel de Ville. The President also highlighted the necessity "to preserve stability in Lebanon, which managed to liberate the soil occupied by Daesh."
Moreover, he shone light on the importance of "providing support for Lebanon in the economic, cultural, educational, and ecological fields, in order to achieve the sought sustainable development in the Middle East and the world." For her part, Hidalgo said that with its triumph over the terrorists, Lebanon sent "a clear-cut message of hope to the entire world--the hope to fully defeat terrorism." The Mayor did not fail to express appreciation of Lebanon for hosting more than 1.5 million Syrians who fled war in their country. "I had the chance to closely witness the tribulations in your country (...) we do realize the huge responsibility you are alone, in Lebanon, bearing," she said. "I am now convinced that we should host refugees in Europe in proper circumstances," she added. Afterwards, President Aoun headed to the French Senate.

Govt. Fails to Resolve Wage Scale Crisis as Teachers, Employees Stage Strike, Protest
Naharnet 26/17/The cabinet on Tuesday failed to resolve the renewed wage scale crisis during an emergency session at the Grand Serail, as a general strike by private and public school teachers and civil servants entered its second day. Information Minister Melhem Riachi told reporters after the session that the discussion will be continued during a Thursday session that will be chaired by President Michel Aoun, who is currently in France. Asked whether the debate has made any progress, Riachi said "major progress was made" after "profound discussions." MTV meanwhile reported that the session "witnessed a dispute between the Free Patriotic Movement and the AMAL Movement over the issue of state budget auditing and the suspension of Article 87 of the Constitution." "The exit lies in finding a political solution to the FPM-AMAL political clash," ministerial sources told MTV. LBCI television meanwhile reported that the debate is "still revolving around whether the taxes should be included in the state budget or in a separate law."Economy Minister Raed Khoury had voiced optimism ahead of the session, telling reporters that “there is an inclination to pay the public sector salaries according to the new wage scale.”“But let us await the outcome of today's session,” he added. Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil for his part said he expected a “solution” during today's session. “There will be a decision to implement the wage scale and we don't mind the finance minister's proposal but it should be comprehensive,” Justice Minister Salim Jreissati said. Riachi meanwhile told reporters that he was “not sure” that the cabinet would decide to begin implementing the new wage scale. Private and public school teachers and public employees observing a general strike that has entered its second day meanwhile staged a sit-in outside the Grand Serail to press the government not to delay the payment of the hiked wages. The sit-in was organized by the Syndical Coordination Committee, the Association of Public Administration Employees and the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers. The SCC later announced that the general strike will continue on Wednesday and Thursday, calling for a sit-in outside the presidential palace in Baabda where the next cabinet session will be held.A protest was also held Tuesday outside the governorate headquarters in Zahle. The crisis erupted after the Constitutional Council revoked a tax law that had been approved to fund the long-awaited wage hike plan. The annulment

Berri deems wage scale right to its recipients
Tue 26 Sep 2017/NNA - House Speaker, Nabih Berri, on Tuesday voiced commitment to the long awaited salary scale, saying that "the wage scale is a right ... which the Parliament has granted to citizens." "It is necessary to secure the funding of the salary scale in order to create a balance between revenues and expenditures," Speaker Berri said during a chat with accredited media representatives to Msaileh. Berri considered what happened as an infringement on the Parliament, an encroachment upon the Speaker's prerogatives, and a violation of the Taif Agreement. The Speaker defied the statement which proclaimed that the Parliament does not have the right to legislate taxes outside the framework of the state budget, bringing to attention that the Parliament has earlier approved in its recent session the petroleum tax law. Berri stressed that the salary scale should be paid to its recipients. In reply to a question about communication with Syria, the Speaker deemed coordination between the two countries as "necessary and falls in Lebanon's interest", particularly in terms of agricultural exports and the Syrian refugees' crisis. Berri urged all parties to remain vigilant in the face of any attempt to tamper with the internal security and stability. On another level, Berri received the Director-General of the International Organization for Migration, Ambassador William Swing, with whom he discussed cooperation between Lebanon and IOM. He met with Uruguayan ambassador to Lebanon, Marta Ines Pizzanelli, with talks reportedly touching on means of bolstering the bilateral ties.

Cabinet to meet Thursday in Baabda to decide about salaries scale and tax hike law NNA The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri chaired this afternoon at the Grand Serail an extraordinary cabinet meeting to discuss the Constitutional Council's decision to annul the tax hike law and the suggestions to address its consequences. At the end of the session, which lasted until 3:45, the Minister of Information Melhem Riachi said: "The Council of Ministers discussed in it
Tue 26 Sep 2017/Discussions will continue next Thursday during a cabinet meeting at the presidential palace, chaired by President Michel Aoun, in the hope that the draft law will be approved and transferred to Parliament.
Question: Will the tax law be separated from the budget?
Riachi: We are discussing a tax law because it is essential revenues for the scale and the issue will be determined on Thursday.
Question: Will the salaries be paid according to the salaries scale?
Riachi: The way to deal with the issue will be determined on Thursday.
Question: Is there any progress in the discussions?
Riachi: There is great progress because there were in-depth discussions.

Constitutional Council Head Lashes Out after Criticism
Naharnet 26/17/Constitutional Council chief Judge Issam Suleiman has hit back at criticism against the Council's ruling that revoked a controversial tax law aimed at funding a new wage scale for civil servants and the armed forces. “The ruling reflects our opinion on the tax law, and I'm not willing to respond to every person who voices a stance in this regard,” Suleiman said in remarks published Tuesday by el-Sharq newspaper. “The ruling has become in force and binding for all authorities and it does not accept any reconsideration. If they are cornered, let them search for a solution to the problem that they have created instead of attacking the Constitutional Council's decision,” Suleiman added. He said the “solution” lies in “approving the state budget and the necessary auditing, because their absence for more than ten years opens the door for the waste of public money and the spread of corruption across all the joints of the state.”“The ruling that revoked the tax law is binding and all state institutions must abide by it,” Suleiman stressed. Told that Justice Minister Salim Jreissati has reportedly described the Council's ruling as a “heresy,” Suleiman reminded that President Michel Aoun, “the country's highest authority, has lauded the Constitutional Council's ruling.”“The ball is now in the court of the executive and legislative authorities and they shoulder their responsibilities by implementing the ruling, and the justice minister, who was a member of the Constitutional Council, knows this,” he added. Suleiman also noted that the Council's ruling is “totally in harmony with the stance of President Michel Aoun, who has linked the approval of the new wage scale to the approval of the state budget.”“Those attacking the Council's ruling have not read its text thoroughly,” Suleiman added, noting that the annulment decision was not based on “the article related to banks.”“We do not care about political vengeance. We have performed our duties in line with the national interest, which obliges us to preserve the sacred public funds... Our conscience is clear and we are not afraid of political punishment,” Suleiman went on to say. Speaker Nabih Berri had stressed Monday that legislation is the responsibility of Parliament, while noting that the Constitutional Council's ruling “was not brought by the angels.” “Let's not forget that Parliament is constitutionally in charge of drafting laws and that restrictions cannot be imposed on it, unless the violation of the Constitution has become a normal thing, seeing as the Constitutional Council's ruling was not brought by the angels,” Berri said.

New UK-German MOU in Support of Lebanese Army

Naharnet 26/17/The British and German ambassadors to Lebanon, Hugo Shorter and Martin Huth, on Tuesday toured the new towers of the Lebanese Army's Fourth Land Border Regiment in the Tufail border region, the British Embassy said.
Germany is the latest international supporter of the LAF’s land border project. The British and German ambassadors were briefed by high ranking Lebanese officers on the success of the project. “Protected by the Lebanese Armed Forces for the first time after it deployed into the area this June, the renewed sense of security along this section of the border has given residents the chance to resume their daily lives and business: residents have returned to the homes and land not seen in years, and near-border communities are reporting an increased sense of safety and support for the LAF,” the British Embassy said in a statement. The ambassadors heard how this was “increasingly true across the whole Lebanese-Syrian border, where the LAF are deploying from the Mediterranean to the Sheikh mountain (Mount Hermon) in order to secure Lebanon, and protect residents,” the statement said. “The visit was also an opportunity to welcome a new contribution by Germany to the UK border project, with the two ambassadors signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for €1.5 million (£1.3 million) of additional German support to the border project, signaling continued international willingness to support the Lebanese army,” the statement added. At the end of the visit, Ambassador Shorter said: “I am very pleased to see the fruition of our long-term partnership to the LAF, including the new Fourth Land Border Regiment. The LAF’s military success in (Operation) Fajr al-Jouroud has anchored its reputation as a professional and respected institution that has dramatically increased its capabilities in recent years, and we are proud of the trust they have shown in the UK to work with them.”“I am also pleased to welcome Germany’s contribution which -- coupled with commitments from other partners -- will help ensure a resilient and secure Lebanon. From 2019, Lebanon will have complete authority over its border with Syria,” Shorter added. Ambassador Huth for his part said that “the security and stability of Lebanon is extremely important to the international community.” “I am pleased that Germany, together with our British friends, will participate further in 2017 through support to the LAF’s Land Border project. A key part of Germany’s engagement has for a long time been capacity building in the Lebanese Navy. We have donated a coastal radar system and two Naval vessels to enable the LAF to control their territorial waters,” Huth added. “Additionally we provide training and equipment for the maintenance of the LAF Navy through permanent German training teams based at Jounieh Naval Base. The signing of this MOU marks the beginning of a new phase of German support for the LAF in its endeavors to protect Lebanon’s borders and to combat terrorism,” the German ambassador went on to say.

GLC announces general strike Wednesday, Thursday
Tue 26 Sep 2017/NNA - The General Labor Union (GLC) called for a general strike on Wednesday and Thursday in public institutions, independent establishments, municipalities and gov-run hospitals in all Lebanese districts.
In a statement issued by the GLC on Tuesday, it deprecated the government's procrastination in taking the final decision regarding the implementation of the approved scale law.

UCC announces ongoing strike tomorrow and after tomorrow

Tue 26 Sep 2017/NNA - The Union Coordination Committee (UCC) on Tuesday announced ongoing strike tomorrow [Wednesday] and after tomorrow [Thursday] till the government brings into effect the salary scale law 46/2017.

Future bloc berates BassilMoallem meeting as 'blatant attack' on government
Tue 26 Sep 2017/NNA - Future parliamentary bloc on Tuesday sternly deprecated the meeting Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil had held with his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Moallem on the sidelines of the United Nations' General Assembly in New York, saying such act constitutes a "blatant attack" on the Lebanese government and its head, Prime Minister Saad Hariri. "The bloc sees in this behavior a sheer attempt to drag Lebanon into the Iran-Syrian regime front, under many and various pretenses," the MPs said in a statement issued following the bloc's weekly meeting, and read out by lawmaker Ammar Houri. "The bloc considers this meeting, as well as other unilateral encounters, as a violation of the governmental norms and principles, and a flagrant breach of the ministerial statement; it is also a blatant attack on the government and its head, as well as on the inter-governmental solidarity," the statement added.
"The bloc holds onto its unswerving national position rejecting any form of settlement of Syrians or other refugees in Lebanon," conferees said, highlighting the necessity to exert all the required efforts to secure a safe return of the displaced to their homeland in the nearest time possible.
On the regional level, the bloc warned against the expected Kurdish independence referendum. "Such step paves the way for other similar groups across the Arab world to follow suit. As a result, this [step] only serves Israel and the schemes of some regional states and international powers," the bloc concluded.

Khalil to Propose 'Solution' as Khoury Says Govt. Inclined to Pay Hiked Wages
Naharnet 26/17/Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil will propose a “solution” to the new wage scale crisis during Tuesday's cabinet session, media reports said, as Economy Minister Raed Khoury announced before the meeting that “there is an inclination to pay the salaries of public employees according to the new schedules.”The crisis erupted after the Constitutional Council revoked a tax law that had been approved to fund the wage hike plan. The annulment followed an appeal that was filed by ten MPs led by Kataeb Party chief Sami Gemayel. An Nahar newspaper said Khalil and his team at the Finance Ministry had exerted extensive efforts Monday to prepare the “solution” that the minister will raise in the cabinet session. Under the proposal, “the finance minister would pay the salaries of employees this month according to the schedules of the new wage scale, seeing as the ministry's departments had recently finalized these schedules at his instructions,” the daily said. “The government would then submit (to Parliament) a draft law containing the amendments that have been requested by the Constitutional Council in Articles 11 and 17 of the appeal ruling in a manner that would maintain the taxes that had been stipulated by the appealed law, especially the taxes on banks,” An Nahar added. Asked whether these taxes will be included in the state budget or in a separate law, Khalil told the newspaper that “the debate in the Council of Ministers is still revolving around this point.”“We support the approval of the state budget, but we do not endorse the Constitutional Council's opinion that Parliament does not have the right to legislate taxes outside the state budget,” the minister added. “Throughout its history, Parliament has legislated taxes in a fully separate manner, as happened in the latest legislative session when the petroleum tax law was approved and when we amended the income tax law. We had also passed the VAT tax law separately from the state budget law,” Khalil explained. Private and public school teachers and public employees observing a general strike that has entered its second day were meanwhile staging a sit-in outside the Grand Serail to press the government not to delay the payment of the hiked wages.

Syrian Children in Lebanon Find Music School Away from Home

Associated Press/Naharnet 26/17/Hassan Youssef was 10 years old when a local Syrian composer discovered his talent: a deep powerful voice that was particularly resonant for traditional songs. It wasn't long, however, before Syria's grinding civil war nearly shattered Youssef's hope of polishing his natural gift. He and his family left their home in a suburb of Damascus and traveled to Lebanon's Bekaa Valley to become one of the millions of Syrians living in refugee camps around the region. When the Action for Hope Music School announced it was seeking talented children among the refugee community in Lebanon to train, Youssef's family were the first to encourage him to enroll. A year and half later, the now 14-year-old Youssef is one of two dozen children who graduated from the program, which was capped by a busy and lively concert in a central Beirut theater Friday. Youssef, a lead singer in the concert, had come a long way from the early days of the war when a mortar round fell near his family's home. "We only heard the sound of a mortar, it fell near us," said Youssef, whose shy manner contradicts a deep and impressive performance of traditional Syrian songs. "When we looked it had apparently brought down a whole building. That is all I remember."Music, he says, "makes one forget everything. Music is the most important thing." Youssef is one of nearly 3 million children who have been displaced by the war. In Lebanon, there are more than 1 million registered refugees, nearly half of them children. Some observers believe many more are not registered.The UNESCO-funded Action for Hope program Youssef attended has trained 24 of those displaced children for over a year and a half. It also aims to preserve the musical heritage of Syria and the region, offering classes in theory and the history of Arabic music, and teaching students the oud or Buzuq, two-string instruments used in classical Arabic and Turkish music, as well as traditional songs from different parts of Syria and the region.The crowd at the graduation concert, many of them proud family members, cheered enthusiastically as the children played a repertoire of over a dozen songs from Syria, Egypt and Turkey. The crowd sang along and clapped to their performance of "muwashahat" from Aleppo, a form of poetic ballad for which the Syrian city is famous. The band also performed famous old Egyptian songs, stumbling some as they pronounced the Egyptian dialect.
The spirit during the more than 60-minute performance was elated, and Youssef drew a long cheer after performing an old deep-voiced song.
Youssef said he is now planning with colleagues to form a new band to play commercially whenever they can. Director of Action for Hope, Basma el-Husseiny, said the music school offers children traumatized by the war and displacement an avenue to express themselves and overcome the sense of being a victim. The organization also has a video and theater program. "Art gives strength. It emanates from the ability to create and at the same time to appreciate creativity," el-Husseiny said. "This strength is needed by people who are marginalized, deprived and undergoing difficult circumstances much more than the rich."Fawaz Baker, a Syrian music adviser for the project and the former head of a music academy in Aleppo, said he picked 24 children from a total of 200 students who applied. He chose to train them in a diverse set of songs from Turkey, Egypt and Syria's region.
"We tried to diversify, so that the children can choose in the future," he said.
Action for Hope is now taking its program to Jordan, where 20 new Syrian students have also enrolled to learn music.

Lebanon civil servants on strike amid wage hike crisis
The Associated Press, BeirutTuesday, 26 September 2017/Lebanon’s civil servants are on strike to pressure the government to pay them recently approved wage hikes amid a new crisis over how to finance them. The Cabinet is meeting on Tuesday to discuss new ways to finance the wages bill, estimated at $800 million. The law improving the wages, which had been in the works for years, was passed earlier this summer. But the Constitutional Council earlier this week revoked a tax law to finance the bill, saying it violated the constitution. The decision left the government scrambling for ways to finance the wage bill, amid pressure from public servants who expected their new salaries this month. Government offices were shut on Tuesday, and hundreds of civil servants protested outside. One poster simply read: “The dignity strike.”

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 26-27/17
Democratic Union Party: We will Defend Kurdistan if Attacked

Asharq Al Awsat/September 26/17/London – People’s Protection Units (YPG) will support the Kurdish people in Iraqi Kurdistan in the event of any aggression despite disagreements with the President of Kurdistan region Masoud Barzani, according to Chairman of Democratic Union Party (PYD). Chairman of Democratic Federal System for Rojava – Northern Syria, Hadiya Yousef announced on its Twitter account that all crossing points on northern Iraq will be open for Kurdistan region adding that Syrian Kurd will be supportive in case the region was under attack or siege.
Both the Rojava and PYD do not agree with Barzani, however, Muslim believes that referendum is a natural right for anyone. Several officials of PYD believe that the referendum is an escape forward policy. A field commander stated that they fear Kurds will face the same destiny as Armenian people; to win a land and lose the cause. Muslim, however, told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that despite the disagreements, if Kurdish people needed help, they will offer assistance and the YPG stands with Iraqi Kurds against any aggression. Kurdistan’s referendum coincided with the elections in the Federal System for Rojava – Northern Syria. Muslim said that the Federal System was pleased with the turnover where about 740,000 people elected. The Democratic Union is the most prominent party at the Federal System. US special envoy for anti-ISIS operations Brett McGurk commented on the elections saying the areas regained from ISIS will be under the control of local people who know the area until a long-term political settlement had been reached. Informed sources reported that Iran, Russia, and Turkey had been coordinating to establish a de-escalation agreement for Afrin, north Aleppo. A Kurdish official informed Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that military officials from Russia, Turkey, and Iran met with regime officials in al-Bab city within the Euphrates Shield’s area controlled by Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army. The official stated that the meetings could lead to an agreement between all four parties against the Iraqi Kurds. Turkey had rejected any direct contact with the regime in Damascus, however, it discusses Syrian matters with officials in Tehran and Moscow, Syria’s allies. Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to discuss the Kurdish referendum and coordination against it with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hasan Rouhani. Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem has rejected the independence referendum describing it as “unacceptable,” saying Damascus only recognized a unified Iraq. “We reject any action that leads to the fragmentation of Iraq,” he said. Syrian state news agency SANA quoted Muallem as saying on Sunday that Damascus “does not recognize anything but a unified Iraq.” The Foreign Minister said that this step is unacceptable and is not recognized by Syrian government adding that he had discussed his government’s position with Iraq’s foreign minister.

Iran’s Guards Use Aerial Guided-Missile Attacks to Back Regime Troops in Syria
Asharq Al Awsat/September 26/17/Beirut- Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard had single-handedly introduced a new weapon when taking up arms side by side by Syria’s regime against ISIS in the Badia region. Air-launched guided missile activity was registered–meanwhile, ISIS militiamen rebelled against commandership orders to implement the deal brokered with regime forces and withdraw from Hama’s eastern rural zone. ISIS militants were given an order to exit Hama to Idlib. A video clip broadcasted on Iran’s Alalam News Network showed aircraft carrying guided missiles and said they belonged to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Missiles targeted Badia posts in Syria, without specifying any locations. Other Iranian outlets reported that the attacks took place near the Syrian-Iraqi border and destroyed vehicles, military equipment, and ammunition. Syrian opposition sources based in Deir al-Zour said that Iranian aircraft hovered over south-eastern Damascus countryside reaching all the way to the west of Abu Kamal area in Deir al-Zor border with Iraq. Iranian aerial activity in the area near Deir al-Zour is recent — usually, surveillance aircraft belong to Syrian regime forces and Russian air fleets, sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. Tehran had insisted on openly broadcasting employing new weapons in Syria. In parallel to the launch of short-range missiles from Iran to the Deir al-Zour area last summer, Tehran announced the launch of drones nearby coalition forces present at the US occupied al-Tanf base in Syria but did not announce the use of guided missiles launched by aircraft already running. The video showed two simultaneous images of the missile’s trajectory: the first taken from a camera installed in the front, the second from a reconnaissance aircraft. Among hit targets was a tank, which means that the guided missiles are anti-armor. On that note, the US military destroyed an Iranian reconnaissance plane that tried to approach the Al-Tanf camp. Al-Tanf military base is used by the Washington-led coalition to train rebels belonging to the “Free Syrian Army” to fight against ISIS terrorists centered near the Syrian-Iraqi border.

Qatari FM: ‘Quatret States Present Doha As Gift for Tehran’

Asharq Al Awsat/September 26/17/London- An economic blockade on Qatar is having the effect of pushing Qatar closer to Iran economically, Qatar’s foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told reporters in Paris. “They said Qatar was now closer to Iran. By their measures they are pushing Qatar to Iran. They are giving Iran, or any regional force, Qatar like a gift,” he said on Monday. Sheikh Mohammed questioned whether their objective is to push one country, a GCC member state toward Iran, adding that it is not a wise objective.On the sidelines of a discussion organized by the French Institute of International Relations in Paris Monday, the Qatari FM said that his country supports the dialogue and sees it as the best solution to solve the Gulf crisis.  He noted that Doha supports the internationally supported mediation efforts led by Kuwait, stressing his country’s refusal to accept the 13 conditions set by the four boycotting countries. On the Gulf crisis, he told reporters that he had seen from US President Donald Trump a “greater desire” to fix the crisis and that Trump “doesn’t want to see conflict among friends.”Mohammed bin Abdulrahman reiterated Qatar’s stance that it is being falsely accused of supporting “terrorism” because its progressive policies have differed from those of the blockading nations. “We believe that to resolve these differences, we all need dialogue and discussion based on respecting our choices and independence,” he said. He said Qatar is willing to discuss any demand from critics, but they must not infringe on sovereignty or international law.

Iraqi Kurd leader Barzani: Majority of Kurdistan voted ‘yes’ for independence
AFP, ErbilTuesday, 26 September 2017/Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani Tuesday urged Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to begin talks on the issues dividing them a day after the Kurdish autonomous community held a referendum in which he said a majority voted in favor of independence.
“I call on Mr Haider al-Abadi and the others (Iraqi political officials) not to close the door to dialogue because it is dialogue that will solve problems,” he said in a televised address. “We assure the international community of our willingness to engage in dialogue with Baghdad,” he said. “The referendum is not to delimit the border (between Kurdistan and Iraq), nor to impose it de facto,” Barzani added. The Kurdish move to stage a referendum on independence went ahead despite both Iraqi and international opposition. Iraq’s neighbors Turkey and Iran both have minority Kurdish communities of their own. The vote is non-binding and will not lead automatically to independence, but is seen by the Kurds as a major step towards a long-cherished dream of statehood.

Erdogan tells Iraqi Kurds they will go hungry if Turkey imposes sanctions

AFPTuesday, 26 September 2017/Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Iraqi Kurds would go hungry if his country halts the flow of trucks and oil across the border with northern Iraq and warned that all military and economic measures were on the table against its neighbor. The comments, some of the harshest yet from Erdogan about Monday’s referendum in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, came as Iraqi troops joined the Turkish army for military exercises near Turkey’s border with northern Iraq. While initial results indicated overwhelming support for independence, Turkey - long northern Iraq’s main link to the outside world - sees the referendum as a threat to its own security, fearing it will inflame separatism among its Kurdish population. “(They) will be left in the lurch when we start imposing our sanctions,” Erdogan said in a speech broadcast live on television. “It will be over when we close the oil taps, all (their) revenues will vanish, and they will not be able to find food when our trucks stop going to northern Iraq.” Turkey, which is home to the region’s largest Kurdish population, is battling a three-decade Kurdish insurgency in its southeast, which borders northern Iraq. Erdogan said on Monday that traffic was only being allowed to cross from the Turkish side of the border into Iraq. Erdogan has repeatedly threatened economic sanctions, but has given few details. Hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a day flow through a pipeline in Turkey from northern Iraq, connecting the region to global oil markets. Iraq, including the Kurdish region, was Turkey’s third-largest export market in 2016, according to IMF data. Turkish exports to the country totaled $8.6 billion, behind Germany and the United Kingdom.
Military measures possible
Erdogan said all potential measures - including economic and military initiatives that involved land and air space - were on the table, adding that Iraqi Kurds would be incapable of forming a state. “They don’t have an idea on how to be a state. They think that they are a state just by saying it. This can’t and won’t happen,” he said.

US warns Kurdistan referendum will ‘increase instability’

AFP, WashingtonTuesday, 26 September 2017/The United States warned that an independence referendum Monday for Iraqi Kurdistan to break away from Baghdad will “increase instability.”“The United States is deeply disappointed that the Kurdistan Regional Government decided to conduct today a unilateral referendum on independence, including in areas outside of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. “The United States’ historic relationship with the people of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region will not change in light of today’s non-binding referendum, but we believe this step will increase instability and hardships for the Kurdistan region and its people.”

Iraq’s PM Abadi refuses talks with Kurds over independence vote results

Reuters, BaghdadTuesday, 26 September 2017/The Iraqi government will not hold talks with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) about the results of the “unconstitutional” referendum on independence held on Monday in northern Iraq, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said. “We are not ready to discuss or have a dialogue about the results of the referendum because it is unconstitutional,” Abadi said in a speech broadcast on state TV on Monday night. Masoud Barzani’s KRG says the referendum is not binding and was meant to be a legitimate mandate to negotiate with Baghdad and neighboring countries over the secession of the Kurdish-controlled region from Iraq. The vote was expected to deliver a comfortable “yes”, and final results should be announced in 72 hours.

Iran warns of regional chaos from Iraqi Kurd vote
Tue 26 Sep 2017/NNA - Iran said Tuesday that the independence vote in Iraqi Kurdistan would trigger "political chaos" in the region, while the Revolutionary Guards said they were sending new missile equipment to the border. "The outcome of this move is political chaos in the region," said Ali Akbar Velayati, chief foreign policy advisor to Iran's supreme leader. "The honourable people of Kurdistan will not bear this disgrace," he said, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency. There was a large turnout for Monday's vote in northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, which is expected to deliver a resounding "yes" to independence. State television made a rare admission on Tuesday that Kurds in Iran's northwestern border region had held peaceful demonstrations in support of the referendum. "Unfortunately, (Iraqi Kurd leader Massud) Barzani has been connected to the Zionists since long ago and hasn't learned a lesson from Palestine," said Velayati. Meanwhile, the deputy head of the Revolutionary Guards aerial headquarters, Alireza Elahi, said it had "sent new missile equipment to the western region to boost the aerial defence and preparedness against any violation."
At least one Iranian lawmaker called for a more conciliatory stance now that the vote has gone ahead. "The referendum does not mean independence for Iraqi Kurdistan. There is a process which, if implemented, will take two to three years. So we should not be so sensitive and should only make clear to Kurdish people that this is not in their interest," MP Ali Motahari told reporters, according to ISNA.--AFP

UN hikes Rohingya exodus number to 480,000

Tue 26 Sep 2017/NNA - The United Nations on Tuesday drastically increased the estimated number of Rohingya Muslims who have fled violence in Myanmar to 480,000 as Bangladesh eased restrictions on aid groups working in refugee camps and sought $250 million to cope with the crisis. The number who have crossed the border since August 25 to escape a Myanmar military crackdown has increased by 45,000 in two days. Between the new arrivals and some 300,000 Rohingya who were already living in the area due to previous violence in Myanmar, there are now nearly 800,000 refugees in camps around the Bangladesh border town of Cox's Bazar that are bursting at the seams. The situation has forced new arrivals into makeshift shelters in grim conditions, and sparked warnings that epidemics, including cholera, could easily spread. A report by UN agencies and international charities said the higher number was due largely to an estimated 35,000 Rohingya, not previously accounted for, moving into two refugee camps. It also said numbers crossing the border had started to rise again. After reporting a significant fall in arrivals last week, the new report said hundreds had been crossing the border daily in recent days.
'Herculean task'
Pressure on Bangladesh has increased so much that it has eased restrictions on private aid groups so they can work in Cox's Bazar camps. The country has previously strictly limited access. It has never given reasons, but is sensitive about security and authorities fear a Muslim influx could tempt extremist groups.
The government NGO Affairs Bureau has now cleared 30 local and international groups to meet "emergency needs" in camps and said more would follow, Shahdat Hossain, a bureau director, told AFP. The aid groups still only have permission to work in the camps for two months and must focus on providing healthcare, sanitation facilities and shelters for the Rohingya, Hossain said. Authorities had previously only let four international groups -- including Doctors With Border (MSF) and Action Against Hunger (ACF) -- provide food and healthcare. Muslim Aid, a British-based charity, was given permission to operate in Cox's Bazar last week but this was quickly revoked again. It remains barred even though it operates in other parts of Bangladesh. Authorities briefly ordered MSF, ACF and Muslim Aid to stop providing aid to the Rohingya in 2012. Dhaka-based BRAC, one of the world's largest charities, is among the new groups allowed into the camps. BRAC senior director Asif Saleh said in a Facebook post that the scale of the "humanitarian crisis" was significantly worse than what was being portrayed by the media. He said the group has taken on the "herculean task" of setting up 15,000 toilets, 1,100 tube wells, 50 health camps, 10 delivery centres and 50 child centres. Desperate for help Bangladesh has deployed dozens of emergency medical teams and sent reinforcements to hospitals in Cox's Bazar. They have treated more than 2,350 Rohingya for serious injuries sustained in the crackdown, including bullet and machete wounds and landmine injuries. Some 80,000 Rohingya children have also been vaccinated for measles, rubella and polio diseases and thousands of adults treated for diarrhoea, respiratory diseases and pregnancy complications. Desperately needing more help, junior health minister Zahid Malek said Dhaka has sought $250 million from the World Bank to provide healthcare to the Rohingya. A United Nations official last week said it would need $200 million over the next six months to handle the Rohingya crisis. The UN made an emergency appeal for $78 million on September 9, but UN resident coordinator in Bangladesh, Robert Watkins, said much more would be needed as the exodus grows. ---AFP

Three Israelis killed in suspected gun attack on West Bank settlement
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishTuesday, 26 September 2017/A Palestinian opened fire at Israeli security personnel at the entrance to a West Bank settlement on Tuesday, killing three and wounding another before being shot dead, police said. "A terrorist who arrived at the rear gate of Har Adar along with Palestinian laborers entering the settlement.... pulled out a weapon and opened fire at the force at the site," police said. "Three Israelis were killed in the attack, another was wounded and the terrorist was neutralized." Police later said the Palestinian had died of his wounds. The wounded Israeli was admitted to Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem in serious condition, the hospital said. The incident, at a settlement northwest of Jerusalem that lies near several Palestinian villages, comes nearly two years after a wave of unrest broke out. The violence had greatly subsided in recent months. Since October 2015, the unrest has killed at least 295 Palestinians or Arab Israelis, 50 Israelis, two Americans, two Jordanians, an Eritrean, a Sudanese and a Briton, according to an Agence France-Presse toll. Israeli authorities say that most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks. Others were shot dead in protests and clashes, while some were killed in Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.

Saudi Arabia: King Salman orders driving licenses for women
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishTuesday, 26 September 2017 /Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has issued a historic royal decree granting driving licenses for women in the kingdom as of next June. The royal decree issued on Tuesday also ordered the establishment of a high-level committee of involving the ministries of internal affairs, finance, labor and social development. They will be tasked with studying the arrangements to enforce the new law. “The royal decree will implement the provisions of traffic regulations, including the issuance of driving licenses for men and women alike,” the Saudi Press Agency said.

Mattis Says U.S. Wants Diplomatic Fix for North Korea Crisis
Agence France Presse/Naharnet 26/17/The U.S. wants a diplomatic solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday, as China warned there would be "no winners" in a war on the Korean peninsula.
Tensions have soared after Pyongyang claimed the United States had declared war against it and threatened to shoot down U.S. bombers, in an escalating spat between President Donald Trump and the isolated regime. After the White House took the unusual step of denying it had opened the door to conflict with the nuclear-armed Asian nation, Mattis said Washington's goal was "to solve this diplomatically." "We maintain the capability to deter North Korea's most dangerous threats but also to back up our diplomats in a manner that keeps this as long as possible in the diplomatic realm," he said in New Delhi after talks with his Indian counterpart. The Pentagon chief's emphasis on diplomacy comes as Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un traded barbs in the wake of the North's sixth nuclear bomb and multiple missile tests. Pyongyang says it needs the weapons to defend itself against the threat of a U.S. invasion. The North's Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho on Monday called a press conference to hit back at a U.S. bomber mission near the North's coastline and a slew of bombastic warnings from the American president. Taking umbrage at Trump's weekend tweet that North Korea's leadership "won't be around much longer" if it keeps up its threats, Ri told reporters that the international community hoped that a "war of words" would "not turn into real actions.""However, last weekend, Trump claimed our leadership would not be around much longer," said Ri, who attended this year's U.N. General Assembly session. "He declared a war on our country." The White House said Ri's interpretation of Trump's saber-rattling as "absurd." Alarm over Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile programs dominated the gathering of world leaders at the United Nations, amid fears the heated rhetoric could accidentally trigger a war. China, the North's neighbor and only major ally, warned Tuesday that any conflict would have "no winners."
Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular briefing that the rhetorical sparring "will only increase the risk of confrontation and reduce the room for policy maneuvers."
South Korean President Moon Jae-in cautioned that the security situation on the peninsular was now "more serious than ever," according to the Yonhap news agency. "We will make North Korea realize that it has no future should it try to face the rest of the world with nukes," he said, though he added there was still a chance for dialogue. Fears of a clash were sharpened after U.S. bombers flew off the coast of North Korea on Saturday -- going further north of the demilitarized zone than any U.S. aircraft has flown this century.
"Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to take counter-measures including the right to shoot down U.S. strategic bombers even when they are not yet inside the airspace border of our country," Ri said. "The question of who won't be around much longer will be answered then." A Pentagon spokesman stressed the bombers flew in international airspace and had every right to do so. South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS) said that while Pyongyang did not appear to have picked up the presence of the U.S. warplanes over the weekend, it had since bolstered its coastal defenses. "North Korea relocated its warplanes and strengthened defenses along the east coast," said Lee Cheol-Woo, the chief of the National Assembly's intelligence committee.
- Risk of accidental clash -
As tensions reached fever-pitch, there have been repeated appeals for calm from the United Nations, Russia and China. South Korea, whose densely-populated capital Seoul is located just 35 miles from the demilitarized zone dividing the Korean peninsula, has also asked the U.S. to take the heat out of the situation. Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha in Washington said it was imperative to "prevent further escalation of tensions or any kind of accidental military clashes which can quickly go out of control."In his U.N. address last week, Trump delivered the blunt threat to "totally destroy" North Korea if provoked, deriding leader Kim Jong-un as "Rocket Man". Kim hit back with a personal attack, branding Trump "mentally deranged" and a "dotard" and warning he would "pay dearly." In his U.N. address, Ri warned that Trump's threat to destroy North Korea made "our rockets' visit to the entire U.S. mainland all the more inevitable."

UN envoy says Israel ignoring UN demand to halt settlements
The Associated Press, United NationsTuesday, 26 September 2017/
Israel is not complying with a UN Security Council resolution demanding a halt to all settlement activity and instead is continuing to expand settlements, making a two-state solution “increasingly unattainable,” the UN envoy for the Mideast said Monday. Nickolay Mladenov told the council that in the three months since June 20 Israel’s settlement activity “continued at a high rate, a consistent pattern over the course of this year.” He said activity was concentrated primarily in east Jerusalem where plans were advanced for over 2,300 housing units in July, “30 percent more than for the whole of 2016.”Mladenov stressed that the United Nations considers settlement activities illegal under international law. He was delivering the third report on implementation of a resolution adopted by the council in December condemning Israeli settlements as a “flagrant violation” of international law. The resolution marked a striking rupture with past practice by President Barack Obama, who had the US abstain rather than veto the measure as then president-elect Donald Trump demanded. Since becoming president, Trump has strongly supported Israel, and Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, has repeatedly denounced the December resolution. Trump says he is working for a settlement of the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Mladenov said Israeli officials continue to use “provocative rhetoric” in support of settlement expansion. He cited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks on Aug. 28 saying: “There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel ... we will deepen our roots, build, strengthen and settle.”The UN envoy said continuing settlement expansion is also “undermining Palestinian belief in the international peace efforts.” In addition, he said, Israel’s demolition of structures in the West Bank and east Jerusalem that has displaced hundreds of Palestinians “undermines the prospects for peace.”“Overall, since the beginning of 2017, 344 structures have been demolished, a third of them in east Jerusalem, displacing over 500 people,” Mladenov said. The Palestinians seek the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip - territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war - for their future state. The international community, including Trump’s predecessors, has long supported the two-state solution, believing that partitioning the land into Israeli and Palestinian states is the best way to ensure peace. But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a warning in his address to the United Nations last week, saying that with hopes running out for an independent Palestinian state, he might have no choice but to seek a single, binational state with Israel. Mladenov told the Security Council that “continued violence against civilians and incitement perpetuate mutual fear and suspicion, while impeding any efforts to bridge the gaps between the two sides.” He again urged Palestinians and Israelis “to demonstrate their commitment to rejecting violence, inflammatory rhetoric and provocative actions.” He welcomed recent moves toward reconciliation between Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, and Fatah, which controls the West Bank, saying that “all parties must seize this opportunity to restore unity and open a new page for the Palestinian people.”

MWL Secretary General: No Religion Is Free from Extremist Elements
Asharq Al Awsat/September 26/17/Rome- Muslim World League (MWL) Secretary-General Mohammed Al-Issa said that while no religion promoted extremism, none was free from extremist elements. Issa met on Monday with the head of the Pontifical Council of the Vatican, Cardinal Jean-Laurent Tauran, following a meeting earlier this month with Pope Francis. He noted that the League “welcomes communication and cooperation with the Vatican through the Pontifical Council in all that achieves common goals, in particular, the deployment of peace and harmony.”Cardinal Tauran, for his part, praised the meeting between Issa and Pope Francis, underlining its importance in opening a new page of friendship and cooperation between the Vatican and the Islamic world, in order to meet the challenges and dangers facing the world. The MWL secretary general visited the headquarters of the Community of Sant’Egidio, the international Catholic organization based in Rome. He noted that the MWL was fully ready to cooperate with the organization in all areas that serve cultural communication. The Saudi Arabian government-supported NGO, MWL, was founded in 1962 to propagate Islam and to improve worldwide understanding of the religion. Based in the Saudi city of Mecca, the MWL in its mission statement says it rejects violence and fosters “dialogue with people of other cultures.”

Mladenov: Cairo Agreements are the Palestinians’ Last Chance
Asharq Al Awsat/September 26/17/Gaza – UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said on Monday that the Cairo agreements represented the last chance for intra-Palestinian reconciliation. “This opportunity must be well used,” Mladenov said during a visit to the Gaza Strip.His remarks followed a meeting with the head of Hamas political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas leader in Gaza, Yehya al-Senwar, and other officials, with whom he discussed reconciliation efforts between Fatah and Hamas and the implementation of understandings which have been recently reached in Cairo under the auspices of Egyptian intelligence. The UN coordinator held a closed meeting with Haniyeh and the Hamas leadership, away from the media. However, well-informed sources told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that the officials have discussed the possibility to form a UN team to facilitate the implementation of the recent Cairo understandings, adding that Hamas has welcomed the proposal. Earlier on Monday, Mladenov met with the leaders of Palestinian factions, in the absence of Fatah movement. The meeting gathered senior officials of the Islamic Jihad, the Popular and Democratic fronts, the People’s Party and other factions to discuss the Cairo agreements, the security situation and siege imposed on Gaza. In comments afterwards, the UN official said: “The Cairo understandings represent the last chance to complete the Palestinian reconciliation”, calling on all parties to grab this opportunity and achieve its success.
He also noted that he discussed with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a plan through which a UN delegation would contribute to the successful implementation of the agreements and enable the Palestinian government to take over its duties in Gaza. He pledged that he would personally monitor, along with officials in his office, the process of handing over Gaza’s functions to the government and work together to resolve crises in the area. Mladenov called on all factions to facilitate the task of the government, especially as it would be dealing with many difficult files, including Gaza employees, the humanitarian needs and the complex living conditions. Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

Palestinian PM to Visit Gaza for First Time in Years
Asharq Al Awsat/September 26/17/Ramallah- The Palestinian government announced that it will hold a meeting in Gaza next Tuesday to turn the page of the administrative committee formed by Hamas and give the green light for the ministries and institutions in Gaza Strip. Spokesman for the Palestinian government Youssef al-Mahmoud said, “Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has decided after consulting with President Mahmoud Abbas that the government will hold its weekly meeting in Gaza next week.” “Hamdallah and members of the government will arrive in Gaza next Monday to start taking over government responsibilities after Hamas announced its agreement to dissolve the administrative committee and enable the government to assume its full responsibilities,” he added. Hamdallah determined the purposes behind the government’s visit to Gaza, saying that he aims at knowing all the conditions by which the government will work to tackle consequences of the siege, division, and repetitive Israeli aggression. Hamas welcomed the arrival of the government of Hamdallah to Gaza Strip. A meeting was held in Gaza, in the presence of Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh, to brief attendees on the outcome of the delegation’s visit to Cairo and the agreements reached in the sponsorship of Egyptian intelligence. Haniyeh affirmed that reconciliation is a strategic decision as he welcomed the government’s intention to visit Gaza, assuring that Hamas would provide all required facilities to let it perform its tasks.
In a later statement, the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces stressed the importance of restoring national unity in Palestine and ending divisions. They also lauded efforts of Egypt in supporting the nation’s causes as well as Hamas dissolving the administrative committee in Gaza Strip to resume implementation of the reconciliation.

Israel: Three Police Security Guards Killered Haradar
Jerusalem Post/September 26/17
Two security officers and a border policeman were murdered Tuesday morning in a suspected terror attack in the town of Har Adar, outside Jerusalem. Another Israeli was badly wounded.
According to Border Police, the Palestinian assailant approached the town's gate posing as a laborer. When the officers manning the gate grew suspicious of him because of his unusual clothing, he pulled out his weapon and opened fire.
After an exchange of gunfire, the assailant was shot dead, but not before fatally injuring three people and severely wounding one more.
Israeli media identified the attacker as 37-year-old Nimer Mahmoud Ahmad Jamal, a father of four from the Palestinian village of Beit Surik. The man is said to have had a valid work permit allowing him to enter Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
It is not currently known if the assailant belonged to a terrorist organization, but Hamas has praised the attack and called for others to carry out similar ones.
Israeli Border Policeman speaks about the Har Adar terrorist shooting, September 26, 2017.
Har Adar Resident Drora Bardizchev, who had employed Jamal in her home, said in an interview to Channel 10 News that she was shocked by the attack. She said she had enjoyed a very good relationship with him, often spending time alone with him in the house and drinking coffee together during breaks. She said the man, whom she referred to as Nimer, had been under stress in recent months due to a domestic dispute with his estranged wife.
The Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet) issued a statement saying Jamal had significant personal and family problems, including a history of domestic violence. The statement added that his wife had fled to Jordan several weeks ago, leaving him to care for their four children.
The IDF Spokespersons Unit released a Facebook post that Jamal had written to his wife, in which he stated that his actions were unrelated to their relationship. In the post, which was published on Facebook on Monday, he wrote that he was to blame for their poor relationship due to jealousy and stupidity and that she should care and educate their children according to the teachings of God.
The injured Israeli, the town's security chief, was rushed to hospital for treatment.
The attacker's home village, located about a kilometer away from Har Adar, has been placed under a military closure.
Har Adar resident speaks about terror attack
One of the victims murdered was identified as border police officer First Sergeant Salomon Gabaria (20) from Be'er Yaakov. Yossef Otman from Abu Gosh and Or Arish (25) from Har Adar were identified as the slain security guards.
Israel's police superintendent Roni Alsheich said the actions of the security officers prevented a far more serious outcome.
MDA paramedic Zohar Lomar described the efforts to save the fourth person shot in the attack: "I went to treat him, he was suffering from gunshot wounds in the stomach and chest. We transferred him to the ambulance and evacuated him to hospital, all the time continuing lifesaving treatment... On the way he spoke to us and told us about what had occurred."
Moshir Abu Katish, a Muslim volunteer EMT with United Hatzalah, was also one of the first responders on the scene. He lives in the neighboring Arab-Israeli town of Abu Gosh.
"I raced over to the scene, which took place near the fence of Har Adar. Security forces had shot and killed the terrorist who had carried out a shooting attack against a group of Israelis," Abu Katish said. "I ran to treat the injured people who were suffering from gunshot wounds to their upper bodies. Unfortunately, the three more seriously injured people in the attack were pronounced dead at the scene. We treated a fourth person who was injured at the scene before he was transported to the hospital for further treatment and observation."
Dov Baksht, the commander of ZAKA rescue and recovery organization, who was at the scene of the terror attack, said, “This is a very difficult attack - a terrorist opened fire at close range on four Israelis. The outcome is very bad, with three Israelis killed and the body of the terrorist. The ZAKA team at the scene has three ambulances to evacuate the murdered victims and ZAKA volunteers are working to collect the remains.” Baksht added, “The forensics teams from the Israel Police are currently working on the scene. We are waiting until they have completed their work and then we will enter the scene once again to complete our sacred work.”
On Tuesday evening, Israeli security forces arrested two of the assailant's brothers in connection with the attack, The IDF Spokesperson's unit reported. The brothers were taken in for questioning.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman condemned the attack and vowed to hunt down the terrorists and those who sent them out to kill Israelis. Liberman stressed that there is no difference between Palestinian-fueled terror and fundamentalist Islamic terror in Europe. He added that before there could even be talk of negotiations, the world must demand that the Palestinian Authority cease its inciting ways.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin responded to the attack, saying the nation's hearts were with the families of the victims. "The brutal terror attack exposes, once again, the daily reality that Israeli security forces, who are on the front lines, have to deal with," said Rivlin. "We will continue to confront terror and put our hands on the attackers and their backers."
Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan said there were no prior indications about the assailant's deadly motivations. He placed responsibility for the attack at the feet of the Palestinian Authority, which, he said, encourages terror with its policy of handing out stipends to terrorists and their family members.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely called the attack "The Palestinians' welcome greeting to American envoy Jason Greenblatt." She said the Americans must focus all their attention on ending the murderous Palestinian terror efforts and that any negotiations with them are futile as long as they continue to incite to terror.
Zionist Union Chairman Avi Gabbay called on the government to act "with an iron fist" against terrorists whose sole purpose is to harm Jews. "Har Adar is a community that for years exemplified coexistence between Jews and Arabs. This attack is a severe blow to the relations between the two communities," said Gabbay. Joint List MK Yousef Jabarin blamed the policy of the Israeli government for the attack. "The far right Israeli government is responsible for the bloody circle of violence and the conflict's enshrinement," he said. "There is no such thing as an enlightened occupation. There is no occupation without resistance."In July, three Jewish family members were killed when a Palestinian terrorist entered the West Bank Settlement of Halamish and stabbed them while they were sitting down for Shabbat dinner. The terrorist in that incident was incapacitated by a neighbor, a soldier who was home on leave.

Cairo, Abu Dhabi Call for Facing Attempts to Destabilize Regional Security
Asharq Al Awsat/September 26/17/Abu Dhabi- The United Arab Emirates and Egypt stressed on Monday the need to stand up against foreign intervention in Arab countries’ internal affairs and to intensify joint efforts to achieve the interests of the Arab nation. The two sides also agreed on maintaining coordination to overcome challenges threatening regional security and stability. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi discussed with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, developments in the fight against terrorism, underlining the necessity to exert concerted efforts to counter the financing of terrorist groups and combat extremism and violence. Sheikh Mohamed emphasized the strong bilateral ties between the UAE and Egypt, which, he said, were based on the values of understanding and agreement over regional and international issues. “The Emirati-Egyptian coordination has proved its toughness over the past years in facing various challenges in the region, foremost of which is the challenge of terrorism, which has become a serious global threat that can not be tolerated, because it has spread in a manner that can not be ignored. This calls for a serious Arab, regional and international stand to face this threat, that targets everyone without exception,” the Abu Dhabi crown prince said. “The UAE, under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, stands firmly with Egypt in its war against terrorism, which will not be able to hinder or disrupt the country’s vision of achieving development and progress, and the well-being of its people,” he added. Sisi, for his part, highlighted Egypt’s keenness to maintain strong bilateral relations and coordination between the two countries at all levels, noting that the security of the Gulf States was an integral part of Egypt’s national security. The Egyptian president arrived in Abu Dhabi on Monday for a two-day official visit.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 26-27/17
Confronting North Korean and Iran

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/September 26/17
The weak Iranian nuclear agreement adopted by the former US administration and signed by Iran is partially responsible for North Korea’s rush to develop its own nuclear program. Iran was rewarded $150 billion, with profits, as part of the deal after funds withheld since Shah’s time were returned. It was also granted massive contracts to develop its technical and industrial capabilities and most of the international sanctions imposed had been lifted. Besieged North Korea chose to blackmail the world also because it seems a profitable trade. Iran used to threaten to burn Israel down, and now North Korea is threatening Japan. Its second nuclear missile test two weeks ago was successfully launched over Japan. There is no more doubt that North Korea is dangerous. Washington is now before two choices: either grant North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un an agreement similar to that of Iran or end the agreement with Tehran and suggest new ideas to ensure both countries are denied their nuclear capabilities. During a seminar at the Enterprise Institute, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikky Haley linked between the two threats. She warned that an agreement with Iran, if unchanged, will allow Tehran to pose the same threat as that of North Korea. Can the current US administration put an end to the agreement signed between the western states and Iran two years ago?
Even Ambassador Haley stated that the agreement will not be totally abandoned. However, she called for amending the agreement in a way that it doesn’t allow the regime to secretly develop military nuclear powers. The deal is linked to Iran’s behavior in the region especially that its troops and militias are fighting in several countries.
Time is short and President Trump should announce his position. He has almost two weeks to inform the Congress whether Iran is abiding by the agreement or not. If he says no, then the Congress will re-impose sanctions, which if truly returned, Iran had threatened that it shall consider the agreement annulled and will resume its military nuclear program and production of highly enriched uranium. Regional and Gulf countries are spectators and they do not have the capability to stop the Iranian regime or terminate the agreement.
Since the beginning, Gulf’s point of view had been that agreement is good in principle, but the signed deal is bad as it postpones production of military nuclear power and doesn’t terminate it, especially that lifting the sanctions is not conditioned by Iran’s suspension of its hostile military activity.
If, within the next few years, Tehran succeeded in gaining control or dominating major states like Iraq and Syria, Iran’s power to impose its military nuclear project will double. Then, the nuclear agreement will be rendered useless and it will be difficult for the international community to impose sanctions considering its massive influence. Iran observes current developments because how Trump will react towards North Korea will be a message to it as well. Trump is not Obama. He won’t send gifts and won’t be silent over any insult. At least, that’s how I see things.

German Election: Merkel's Pyrrhic Victory/"Ms. Merkel is in effect a lame duck."

Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/September 26/17
"Angela Merkel has ruled this country for twelve years. She has imposed a debt burden of billions on the Germans to protect the southern part of Europe from collapsing and to implement her idea of ​​a European community. She has shaken the German energy industry to save the world's climate. And she has opened the gates of the country to hundreds of thousands of refugees because she considered it a humanitarian obligation. She also changed the traditional notion of marriage, as marriage of husband and wife, just like that...." — Tagesspiegel.
"We will reclaim our country and our people." — Alexander Gauland, a former CDU official who is now co-chairman of the Alternative for Germany party (AfD).
"The reality is that as of today, September 24, Ms. Merkel is in effect a lame duck." — Handelsblatt.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has won a fourth term in office, but the real winner of the German election on September 24 was the Alternative for Germany, an upstart party that harnessed widespread anger over Merkel's decision to allow into the country more than a million mostly Muslim migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Preliminary election results show that Merkel's center-right CDU/CSU alliance won around 33% of the vote, its worst electoral result in nearly 70 years. Merkel's main challenger, Martin Schulz and his center-left SPD, won 20.5%, the party's worst-ever showing.
The nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) won around 13% to become the country's third-largest party, followed by the classical liberal Free Democrats (FDP) with 10.7%, the far-left Linke party with 9.2% and the environmentalist Greens with 8.9%.
"With only 33%, Merkel has not only achieved the worst result of all the campaigns she has led, but also the second-worst in the party's history," wrote Die Zeit.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to the media in Berlin on September 25, the day after her CDU/CSU party alliance won first place with 32.9% of the vote -- its worst electoral result in nearly 70 years. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)
Merkel now has two main options for building a governing coalition: a so-called grand coalition between the CDU/CSU and the SPD, or a three-way coalition comprising the CDU/CSU, the FDP and the Greens. Building a stable coalition will be difficult, given that all the parties have differing ideologies, platforms and priorities.
Merkel has governed twice in a grand coalition with the SPD and once in coalition with the FDP. Schulz has insisted that the SDP will not agree to another grand coalition because it would leave the AfD as Germany's main opposition party, which would give it special rights and privileges in parliament.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper predicted that any coalition would collapse before the end of the four-year legislative period because Merkel will need to bring together several parties that could not be more different:
"The CDU/CSU and the Greens are worlds apart. Many positions of the libertarian FDP collide head-on with the socialized ideas of the CDU/CSU.... The chances that such an alliance will last until the end of the legislature is estimated to be far below 50%. There is an obvious point of view: the CDU/CSU, FDP and Greens will start as a temporary coalition whose protagonists become exhausted and give up after about two years.... Surely by then the Chancellor will have concluded for herself that enough is enough. The result would be new elections and the end of the Merkel era and a new government — led by its successor."
Deutsche Welle concurred:
"Although these results mean the CDU will remain Germany's largest party, it still represents a substantial loss for the conservatives, who managed 41.5% in 2013. With a three-way coalition looking to be the likely solution to avoid a minority government, Merkel is about to begin a far less stable administration than in her past three terms."
The Financial Times added:
"Ms. Merkel is clearly weakened. The chancellor has over the past year been portrayed as the West's last standard-bearer of liberal values in a world upended by populists such as Mr. Trump. Sunday's election result has revealed just how much her domestic support has dwindled, and how divisive her policies have been."The election results show that more than a million traditional CDU/CSU voters defected to the AfD in this vote. Detlef Seif, a Christian Democrat MP, said disaffected voters had abandoned the CDU because Merkel had moved the party too far to the left, especially on immigration policy and gay marriage. "We must become more focused on our core conservative values," he said. CSU leader Horst Seehofer concurred: "There is an open flank on our right and we have to close this flank with a clear position and clear limits."
In Berlin, Tagesspiegel wrote: "Angela Merkel has ruled this country for twelve years. She has imposed a debt burden of billions on the Germans to protect the southern part of Europe from collapsing and to implement her idea of ​​a European community. She has shaken the German energy industry to save the world's climate. And she has opened the gates of the country to hundreds of thousands of refugees because she considered it a humanitarian obligation. She also changed the traditional notion of marriage, as marriage of husband and wife, just like that....
"The world is celebrating the chancellor for all of this: she has been called the climate chancellor, Europe's savior, world stabilizer, in short: the most powerful woman in the globe. At home, however, Merkel is facing a shambles after three periods of government.
"What follows now is the beginning of a farewell, even if no one can tell today how long it will last."
In a sobering analysis of the economic and social problems facing Germany, Die Zeit wrote:
"No, not all is well in Germany. Rents are rising, social divisions are becoming more acute, roads and schools are often in bad, pathetic condition. With its slogan 'For a Germany in which we live well and gladly,' the CDU/CSU won the election, but many voters lost. The SPD was even punished with its worst result in the history of the Federal Republic. The enormous losses for the grand coalition show: Too many problems were ignored in the election campaign; there were hardly any concrete answers to the pressing questions of our time. This is no longer acceptable. Many voters want a government that transforms their country — not merely manages it."
Merkel has remained defiant. During a post-election press conference, she said: "I do not see what we should be doing differently." She also insisted that there will be no change in migration policy and no annual upper limit on asylum-seekers.
The AfD has countered that the status quo is unacceptable: "Dear friends, now that we're obviously the third-biggest party, the government has to buckle up," said Alexander Gauland, a former CDU official who is now co-chairman of the AfD. "We will hunt them. We will hunt Frau Merkel and we will reclaim our country and our people."Writing for Die Zeit, commenter Ludwig Greven argued that Merkel should resign to save Germany's mainstream parties from political extinction:
"With Sunday's election result, Germany has followed in the footsteps of other European countries. In France, the Netherlands, Italy, Austria, Spain and the Scandinavian countries, conservatives and Christian Democrats as well as socialists and Social Democrats have been badly decimated, if not completely disappeared, from the political scene. Especially in the neighboring Austria, where Christian Democrats and Social Democrats have ruled much longer than in Germany, the two great parties now hardly reach a parliamentary majority....
"If you push this thought game to its logical conclusion, the only remaining and probably also most useful solution is that Merkel abandons her claim to the chancellor's office. It should be her last term anyway. If she resigned, she would deprive the AfD of its decisive role as a protest party against her refugee policy and against her as an eternal chancellor."
Germany's leading business and financial newspaper, Handelsblatt, concluded: "The reality is that as of today, September 24, Ms. Merkel is in effect a lame duck. She herself once said that she doesn't want to be carried out of office 'a half-dead wreck.' And yet she has so far eliminated or sidelined any potential successor in her party. In her fourth term, she will no longer have that luxury. Part of leadership is planning for succession, and grooming a new generation of leaders. At present the ranks of hopefuls within her party, and across the political spectrum, look woefully unconvincing."
**Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

A Jewish-Catholic Partnership against Islamist Violence?
Lawrence A. Franklin/Gatestone Institute/September 26/17
The Pope's failure vociferously to denounce Islam-based violence concerns many among both Church hierarchy and lay people.
The pope's statements regarding Islam and his refusal directly to discuss mounting Christian martyrdom in Muslim lands defy credulity. Whether his words are willful blindness, innocent naiveté, or intellectual ignorance of the nature of Islam itself, it is confusing many of the faithful.
One moderate Muslim leader, Yahya Cholil Staquf, head of Indonesia's Nahdlatul Ulama, said that Westerners "should stop pretending that extremism and terrorism have nothing to do with Islam."
The Chief Rabbinates of world Jewry apparently want to partner with the Vatican to combat radical Islam. In a recent letter, they proposed a formal alliance between Judaism and Catholicism, calling "upon the [Catholic] Church to join us in deepening our combat against our generation's new barbarism, namely the radical offshoots of Islam."
This extraordinary alliance would unite Orthodox Jewry and the Holy See against their common enemy, jihadist Islam. The Rabbinates' letter identifies "the very real danger facing many Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere as they are persecuted and menaced by violence and death at the hands of those who invoke God's Name in vain through violence and terror."
The authors of this missive to Pope Francis -- the Chief Rabbinate of Israel (CRI), the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), and the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) -- represent the vast majority of the world's Orthodox Jews. Representatives of Judaism's Conservative and Reform wings did not sign the letter. Seemingly, any successful efforts by the Orthodox community to elicit the support of Conservative and Reform Jewish leaders would further strengthen the initiative's standing in the Vatican.
The Rabbinates chose the 50th anniversary of the Vatican's publication of the Papal Encyclical "Nostra Aetate" ("In Our Time") to launch their appeal. This document revolutionized relations between the Catholic Church and Judaism, as it formally absolved the Jewish people of any responsibility for Christ's crucifixion. Promulgated by Pope Paul VI on October 28, 1965 during the Second Vatican Council, the encyclical declared:
"His (Jesus') passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today. Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures."
The rabbis proposed an alliance to fight Islam-inspired anti-Semitic and anti-Christian narratives. The rabbis also praised Pope Francis for his 2015 Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium" ("Joy of the Gospel") as it acknowledges "that God continues to work among the people of the Old Covenant, bringing forth treasures of wisdom which flow from their encounter with His word." In addition, they complimented Francis for his denunciation "of a new, pervasive, even fashionable form of anti-Semitism."
Notably, after these complimentary references, they were silent about the Pope's apparent reluctance publicly to denounce Islamic terrorism. They also did not address his silence about particular passages in the Koran which have fueled both anti-Semitic and anti-Christian atrocities. Denunciations of Jews and Christians are highlighted in the very first chapter (Sura) of the Koran, in a prayer allegedly taught by Allah to his Messenger, Muhammad:
"Guide us on the Straight Path
The way of those upon whom You have bestowed Your Grace
not (the way of) those who have earned Your anger (Jews)
Nor those who went astray (Christians) "
Koran Sura One: Al-Fatihah (The Opening) Verses (Ayat) 6 and 7
Pope Francis has yet to address this reference and the many other denunciations of Jews and Christians in the Koran.
The following examples illustrate Pope Francis's public approach thus far. Avoiding criticism of Islam, he called the Koran "a prophetic book of peace." Also, on a flight back from Poland, he told reporters "It's not right to identify Islam with violence. It's not right and it's not true." More bewildering however, is his comment following the horrific murders at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris: "in freedom of expression there are limits... you cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others."
The Pope's failure vociferously to denounce Islam-based violence concerns many among both Church hierarchy and lay people. Some may wonder what motivates Francis to avoid pointed criticism of the violent excesses committed by the Muslim faithful. Some may also ask why Francis avoids condemning the extremist rhetoric of imams routinely urging attacks against Christians and Jews. The reluctance of Francis to criticize Islamic violence while not hesitating publicly to condemn evil, corruption, and social injustice elsewhere, invites inquiry.
One explanation for the Pope's seeming naïveté about Islam's hostility to Judeo-Christian civilization might be his perception of his role. He may well believe that his mission is to lead all men to Christ. No doubt he also believes that all things are possible in a God-created universe, even the ultimate conversion of Muslims to Christianity. On a human plane, he may understand that there is little hope for the peaceful coexistence of Judaism, Christianity, or secular democracy with Islam. The Church has a long view of the ways God moves in history. In this sense, Catholicism and Islam share a casual view of transient ideologies, governments and nation-states.
Even so, the Pope's statements regarding Islam and his refusal directly to discuss mounting Christian martyrdom in Muslim lands defy credulity. Whether his words are willful blindness, innocent naiveté, or intellectual ignorance of the nature of Islam itself, it is confusing many of the faithful. One moderate Muslim leader, Yahya Cholil Staquf, head of Indonesia's Nahdlatul Ulama, said that Westerners "should stop pretending that extremism and terrorism have nothing to do with Islam."
The Rabbinates' proposal for an alliance will receive a polite hearing, especially by the Vatican's "Commission of the Holy See's Religious Relations with Jews" and "The Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue." As yet, however, there is no sign that Francis will alter his outreach to the Muslim world or become more critical of Islam-based extremism. Another possible reason for the Vatican's reluctance might be its concern for minority Christian populations residing in Muslim-majority countries. Still another might be the Vatican's responsibility to secure Christendom's sacred sites in the Holy Land and to protect Vatican property and financial interests.
Pope Francis is no doubt sensitive to possible Muslim misperceptions about his intentions. The Vatican is not game to rejoin a centuries-old battle against Islamic expansionism. Indeed, Francis would want to avoid repeating the anti-Christian violence that followed Pope Benedict's obscure criticism of Islam. Responding to moderate and extremist indignation at Benedict's having quoted a medieval Christian Emperor's critique of Islam, Muslims killed a nun in Somalia, beheaded a priest in Iraq, and attacked churches in the West Bank.
Francis is also aware of the potential of explosive anti-Christian violence that might follow any cooperative effort by Jews and Catholics to combat Islamist violence. Indeed, Islamic leaders such Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood's principal theologian with a global Muslim following, called for "Al-Youm Al Ghadah" ("Day of Rage") after Pope Benedict XVI's lecture critical of Islam, that he delivered in Regensburg in 2006.[1]
For Jews, religious or secular, particularly in Europe, a partnership with the Vatican would provide a psychological boost, as many have already fled rising anti-Semitic, Islamist violence.
While the Rabbinates' proposal does not have the public endorsement of secular Jews, there is little doubt that many embrace similar sentiments. The document outlines the threat that both radical secularism and extremist Islam pose to religious liberty and the shared values of Judaism and Christianity. The Symposium on "Anti-Semitism and Minority Rights in the Middle East," sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Global Anti-Semitism and Policy (ISGAP)[2], convened in the Vatican on September 13, 2017, may provide Pope Francis a venue to embrace, or at least mention, this appeal for partnership.
Despite the Vatican's cautious approach to Islam-inspired violence, this unprecedented offer of partnership by Jewish religious leaders must tempt some within the Vatican's hierarchy to consider embracing their initiative. The Church is relieved after finally having purged remnants of anti-Semitism in its midst, in part due to the efforts of Pope John Paul II. It is now proud of its improved relations with official Judaism and the Jewish people.
Catholics, especially those who are minorities in Muslim-majority societies, and some of whom suffer persecution by Islamic militants, would presumably like Francis vigorously to defend their rights. The Vatican may nevertheless continue to mollify Muslim sensitivities, while still hoping to limit ongoing martyrdoms of Christians. This cautious approach is likely to endure until a catastrophic anti-Christian Islam-based atrocity precipitates a rebellion within the Church's hierarchy.
Pictured: Pope Francis visits the Great Synagogue of Rome on January 17, 2016. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
Dr. Lawrence A. Franklin was the Iran Desk Officer for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. He also served on active duty with the U.S. Army and as a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve, where he was a Military Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Israel.
[1] Catastrophic Failure: Blindfolding America in the Face of Jihad by Stephen Coughlin. Center for Security Policy Press: Washington D.C. 2015.
[2] Symposium at the Vatican, "Embargoed Announcement" sent to author by Richard Shonfeld, 7 Sep 2017.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Europeans: Trump can win on Iran without ending nuclear deal
Laura Rozen/Al Monitor/September 25, 2017
Envoys to Washington say trans-Atlantic cooperation against Tehran needs to build on the 2015 nuclear accord, not undermine it.
REUTERS/John MacDougallFrench President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Donald Trump confer at the start of the first working session of the G-20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, July 7, 2017.
WASHINGTON — European envoys to the United States said today that US President Donald Trump has already succeeded in changing the conversation on Iran and that he doesn’t need to rip up the nuclear deal.
“In a sense, this administration has changed the climate on Iran,” British Ambassador Kim Darroch said at a panel of four European ambassadors at the Atlantic Council. “It is succeeding. … But let’s keep the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action].”
Darroch said he has noticed an intensification of contacts over the past couple of months between the Europeans and experts within the US administration on how to increase the pressure on Iran. The Western allies broadly share Washington’s concerns about Iran’s support for militant proxy groups in the region such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthi rebels, Iran's support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iran's ballistic missile testing.
The ambassadors from France, the United Kingdom, Germany and the European Union spoke ahead of an Oct. 15 deadline for Trump to certify to Congress whether the Iran nuclear deal advances US national security interests. Trump has hinted he is unlikely to do so. If he decertifies, Congress has 60 days to decide whether to vote to reimpose nuclear-related US sanctions waived under the accord in exchange for Iran’s rollback of its nuclear program.
The European envoys said Trump’s certification decision is technically a domestic American issue. Their concern is if the US reimposes sanctions, that would be a material breach of the deal that threatens to unravel it.
Whether or not Trump certifies next month is “basically a domestic issue,” French Ambassador Gerard Araud said. “What matters will be the consequences. We are not going to criticize the president for certification or decertification. That is your problem.”
All parties, even the Trump administration, have previously acknowledged that Iran is technically complying with the deal. The European envoys warned that Washington’s threat to undermine the accord, which Iran is widely seen as honoring, could have devastating strategic consequences for nuclear nonproliferation around the world, including efforts to try to reach a diplomatic solution to the North Korean nuclear threat.
“Reopening the negotiation is a non-starter,” Araud said. “There is also a question of credibility. How do we get an agreement with North Korea if we renege on our agreements?”
German Ambassador Peter Wittig warned that the six world powers that reached the nuclear deal with Iran after years of complex and grueling negotiations would not pull together again if the United States leaves now.
“We can never get a deal with this group of countries again,” Wittig said. “Anyone thinking that is just dreaming.”
“Those who advocate renegotiation have to make the case whether renegotiation is possible and whether renegotiation will deliver better results,” he said. “We don’t think renegotiation is possible.”
The European envoys said the Trump administration does not need to threaten to reimpose sanctions or gin up a crisis to get them to discuss prospects for dealing with Iran’s other destabilizing actions. But they stressed that collaboration to address those threats needs to build on the 2015 nuclear accord, not undermine it.
One tool the Europeans use to raise their concerns with Iran is dialogue, they said. “We share a lot of the American concerns about Iran’s regional behavior,” Germany’s Wittig said. “What had not been mentioned is, we are talking with the Iranians about that in a pretty robust way. We have contacts across the board with a pretty diverse spectrum of Iranian society. We all have embassies there.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, asked by Al-Monitor if Iran would be open to possible talks on an additional or follow-on accord, insisted Iran won’t renegotiate the JCPOA, but is always happy to talk.
“It is the JCPOA in its current form. End of the story,” Rouhani said at a press conference in New York last week. “It must be implemented as such.”
“So for the Europeans to tell America to remain in the JCPOA in exchange for convincing and bringing Iran to the table to negotiate about other topics?” Rouhani said. “That is not founded in reality.”
“Now the JCPOA is being implemented,” Rouhani said. “If our friends in the European Union are keen on speaking with us about something, we are happy to talk with them about anything. We speak with them on a daily basis. … We have no issue with speaking or talking about one [thing or] another. But never can the JCPOA be a condition or precondition to or for anything.”
**Laura Rozen is Al-Monitor's diplomatic correspondent based in Washington, DC. She has written for Y

Putin in Ankara to forge alliance of Russia, Turkey and Iran
Shehab Al-Makahleh/Arabiya/September 26/17
Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on September 28, 2017. The two leaders are expected to dovetail their positions over regional issues before Turkish Special Forces get the nod to intervene in Idlib, the last stronghold of militant opposition forces in Syria. Putin’s visit to Ankara comes a few days prior to the scheduled visit of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s to Moscow on October 5-7, 2017. After patching up an acrimonious row between the countries over the downing of a Russian jetfighter in November 2015 over Syria, both leaders have pledged to restore their political and economic relations to pre-crisis levels.
The recent Turkey-Russia rapprochement has come about as a result of both countries’ tense relations with the West, particularly with the United States, mainly after the failed July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.
Since then, the two countries have forged an informal agreement wherein Turkey has stopped giving support to opposition groups that threatened Russian interests in Syria, while Russia refrained from supporting Kurdish groups operating near the Turkish border with Syria (in Al Bab, Idlib and Aleppo), suspected of fomenting Kurdish secessionism inside Turkey. In contrast, Russia did not seek to block Turkish forces from taking control of the Syrian border regions which were under the control of Kurds and ISIS.
After winning the war in Syria, Russia is now seeking to ensure its peace – a mission no less difficult than going to war
Shehab Al-Makahleh
External interventions
Over the years, Russia has accused Turkey of backing Islamist anti-Assad groups, including ‘terror’ outfits operating inside Russia while Turkey has been at war with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the PKK’s Syrian allies. Ankara now seeks Russian support to secure its borders from external intervention in Turkish internal affairs. Turkish leadership is seeking strategic relationship with Russia to replace the loss of its Western alliance. In other words, Ankara is effecting a shift toward a more “Eurasian-ist” orientation due to the proximity of the region, the overlapping of interests, common cultural values and language. After winning the war in Syria, Russia is now seeking to ensure its peace – a mission no less difficult than going to war. Initially, Russia used Turkey as a key partner to make the Syrian opposition accept a truce and join peace talks for reaching a political settlement.
Later, Moscow called for a peace conference in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, which involved Turkey and Iran. The countries formed a diplomatic triad for setting up de-escalation zones in Syria in order to end the war and stop the division of the country. Russia chose Astana as a venue for the talks to send a message to the US that it should not get close to Russian borders through former republics of the Soviet Union.
Both Putin and Erdogan share a similar stance towards leadership and both have witnessed a revival in conservative, nationalist domestic politics, overseeing awkward ties with Europe. Putin’s visit to Turkey raises eyebrows in the West as it comes at a time when Turkey has strained its relations with the EU and the West in general.
Nowadays, Moscow seeks to be in the position of a mediator to maintain good relations with various parties concerned. Differences between the parties can be dealt with in accordance with conditions that the Kremlin sees fit, as happened in the dispute with Erdogan.
Russian-Turkish bilateral relations have several common traits: pragmatism, multi-faceted approach, commonalities, reliance on energy resources, geopolitical power, military performance, circumspection toward the West. All of this has fueled the Russian and Turkish pursuit to play a pivotal role at the Eurasian and Middle Eastern landscapes.
The economic factor
In 2014, Putin and Erdogan signed several agreements on bilateral trade with the two countries hoping that their annual trade volume would reach $100 billion by 2020. However, the most important achievement of the meeting was the agreement to expand cooperation in natural gas trade. Russia aimed through these agreements to also increase its gas exports to Turkey by more than 3 billion cubic meters because of the latter’s increasing need for energy. Turkey imports 93 percent of its energy needs, 97 percent of which is natural gas. Ankara buy 60 percent of its gas from Russia, which makes it the second largest importer of Russian natural gas after Germany. The value of Turkish exports to Russia does not exceed $6 billion. Putin and Erdogan have officially met each other more than 30 times, even when both countries were not having harmonious relations. However, both sides know very well that political visions are kept aside when it comes to investments and economy including natural gas. From a purely economic perspective, Turkey cannot keep up with the United States and the EU on the issue of sanctions against Russia.
In the wake of instability in Iraq and Syria, Ankara does not have many alternative energy options, except from taking its energy from Russia as Turkey is incapable of indulging in any political adventurism that might endanger its energy sources that are necessary for its industry. Trade exchange between both countries reached $40 billion by the end of 2016 and is slated to increase this year.
The military and security factor
The main factor for Russia behind improving its ties with Turkey has been its overriding security and military interests. Putin is deeply concerned about the security situation in Syria, especially those Russian fighters who fight with ISIS and other terrorist groups.
Russian president is seeking Turkish assistance in this regard to make sure that none of the Russian extremists in Iraq and Syria return home. As for the Turkish president, his chief concern is the comatose Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Turkish international relations have undergone such sharp twists and turns since 2014 that its unpredictability appears to be the only safe prediction for the future. Both leaders believe that should work together to serve their own countries regardless of what other leaders believe about them.
The recent military rapprochement between Ankara and Moscow with the S-400 deal has upset NATO officials because the Russian system, an anti-air defense system, is incompatible with NATO’s. With this deal, Russia will be the third biggest arms exporter to Turkey after Germany and the US.
Erdogan, who plans to visit Iran in October to bolster military cooperation, will also be discussing the repercussions of any independent Kurdish state that might inflame separatist tensions in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.
***Shehab Al-Makahleh is Director of Geostrategic Media Center, senior media and political analyst in the Middle East, adviser to many international consultancies. He can be reached at: @shehabmakahleh and @Geostrat_ME.

What next for Kuwaiti-North Korean relations?

Giorgio Cafiero/Arabiya/September 26/17
Amid the United States and North Korea’s intensifying standoff, Washington is pressuring its Middle Eastern allies to help Washington further isolate Pyongyang. Along with Egypt, Kuwait is doing so. Despite Kuwait’s close alignment with the United States and North Korea’s support for Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War of 1990/91, Kuwait and Pyongyang established diplomatic relations in 2001.
There have been thousands of North Korean laborers in Kuwait for years with the regime in Pyongyang seeing the Arabian Gulf country and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries as destinations for obtaining hard currency quite easily by confiscating up to half of their workers’ earnings.
Kuwait's government, however, has recently signaled its support for the United States in response to North Korea's nuclear tests and testing ballistic missiles over Japan, which the GCC’s top Northeast Asian trade partners – China, Japan, and South Korea – have also denounced very strongly. Earlier this month, authorities in Kuwait told So Chang Sik, Pyongyang’s ambassador to Kuwait, that he must leave the country within one month.
Officials in Kuwait also ended loans to the Hermit Kingdom, banned North Korean imports, cut off loans to the Asian country, and committed to no longer issuing works visas to North Korean laborers. The Kuwaiti authorities also decided to downgrade Pyongyang's diplomatic representation to the chargé d'affaires level by expelling not only the ambassador but also fourth other North Korean diplomats.
An unfortunate dimension to the downgrading of Kuwaiti-North Korean relations would be Kuwait losing its ability to serve as a “neutral state” in potential off-the-record talks between Washington and Pyongyang
The only embassy
Unquestionably, these recent developments undermine Pyongyang’s diplomatic relationship with the rest of the GCC as Kuwait has been the only member of the Council to host a North Korean embassy. It is also the only one from where the Northeast Asian country’s ambassador has also represented the Kingdom to Doha, Manama, and Abu Dhabi (Muscat is the only Arabian Gulf capital that maintains diplomatic relations with Pyongyang which are conducted via China and Egypt instead of through Kuwait).
To be sure, Kuwait still maintains official – albeit downgraded – relations with Pyongyang. Whether its actions, that will cost North Korea economically and diplomatically, burned a bridge with the North Korean regime is not clear. Kuwait has not, at least not yet, fully severed relations with Pyongyang, which would represent a further display of support for the Trump administration and might be the Arabian Gulf state’s next step.
Under such terms it is not clear if Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and the UAE would follow suit to showcase how they take seriously the grave concerns that Western governments, plus Japan and South Korea, harbor with regard to North Korea.
It appears that other GCC states are showing their support for the Trump administration vis-à-vis North Korea. The UAE called on Pyongyang to stop its “provocations” in August and this month the Emirati leadership condemned North Korea’s second missile launch over Japan.
On September 19, Qatar’s Government Communications Office stated that the country has been complying fully with UN sanctions against North Korea and that officials in Doha have completely stopped issuing issues to North Korean citizens while denying that any laborers from North Korea have “never” worked on any construction projects in preparation for the 2022 World Cup.
North Koreans in Qatar
In this statement, Doha acknowledged that roughly 1,000 North Korean workers remain in Qatar, yet the number “will decline rapidly as their employment contracts expire” and that “visas to North Korean nationals will not be renewed.” Should Washington step up pressure on countries to take action against Pyongyang, the leadership in North Korea may be forced to accept that the price for having nuclear weapons and conducting missile tests will include the loss of diplomatic and economic relations with GCC members.
Yet throughout the Qatar crisis, as well as during other times of conflict and dispute between different countries, Kuwait has proven to be an invaluable mediator for Middle Eastern states as well as Washington.
Thus, perhaps an unfortunate dimension to the downgrading of Kuwaiti-North Korean relations would be Kuwait losing its ability to serve as a “neutral state” in potential off-the-record talks between officials in Washington and their counterparts in Pyongyang. After all, the Iranian nuclear deal, which six global powers and Iran signed in 2015, was a product of talks in Oman. Kuwait maintaining ties with North Korea could leave options open for the Arabian Gulf emirate to help the Trump administration and the North Korean regime enter talks given that no military action can constitute a reasonable approach to dealing with Pyongyang.
**Giorgio Cafiero (@GiorgioCafiero) is the CEO of Gulf State Analytics (@GulfStateAnalyt), a Washington, DC-based geopolitical risk consultancy.

Why the UAE celebrates Saudi national day
Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Arabiya/September 26/17
The UAE joined Saudi Arabia in celebrating the 87th Saudi national day this year. It has done so for years amid a celebratory atmosphere that includes official and popular events.
The UAE celebrates the national day of several countries, particularly brotherly Gulf countries but its celebrations of Saudi Arabia’s national day are special and unique. So why does the UAE celebrate it?
The bonds of history, close ties, common language, culture, habits and traditions and the nature of mutual interests are important considering they grant depth to our relations. This is in addition to the special relationship between al-Nahyan family and al-Saud and the families of rulers.
These relations have been strong since the establishment of the modern state and they were later strengthened by Sheikh Zayed and Saudi king Faisal, Khalid and Fahed as well as with Abdullah before he became king.
I think another reason is the advanced awareness of the political command in the UAE. A decade ago, and due to different circumstances, some Gulf states adopted different stances toward certain matters. Some chose to be hostile to Saudi Arabia and conspired against it as much as they could, like Qatar is doing, while some chose to be neutral. The UAE made a decision that reflects its awareness and it chose the option of entering into a strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia
Strategic alliance
The UAE, however, made a decision that reflects its awareness, and it chose the option of entering into a strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia. This was of great importance to both countries’ leadership and it made the difference in the region and the world.
Both leaderships adopted a coherent path while leading the Arab world toward surviving this great challenge known as the Arab Spring and its crises. They had a clear vision to play a role in which they bear a historic role toward it.
They wisely confronted the project of one of the biggest international allies, i.e. the US, and its allies, at the time and bet that the interests of their countries and their people are above everything else.
This strong and influential alliance rose to save Bahrain from the uprising in 2011. It saved Egypt in 2013 and the Muslim Brotherhood was listed as a terror group. They also wisely confronted the schemes of the biggest enemy in the region and the world, i.e. the Iranian regime.
False campaign
Rivals, Iran, Qatar and the Brotherhood, bet on weakening this Saudi-UAE alliance and launched false campaigns after King Salman was crowned king in Saudi Arabia. However, the alliance only deepened and the ties only became stronger. They thus added amazing and more influential successes to their record.
Under King Salman’s leadership, the Operation Decisive Storm was launched to save Yemen. The UAE is the second country in the Arab alliance. They had to harmonize between the fighting and supporting legitimacy and providing humanitarian aid so they worked hand in hand. Confronting Iran was a significant strategy and the UAE was ready for that. Combating terrorism was a priority after the Riyadh summit and after boycotting Qatar, and the UAE was also ready for that.
There are three rival projects in the region: the Iranian sectarian project, the Turkish fundamental-Brotherhood project and the Arab, i.e. Saudi, Emirati and Egyptian, project. It seem victory will be in favor for the Arab project.
The UAE celebrated the Saudi national day on September 23 and Saudi Arabia will celebrate the UAE national day on December 2. It is a model of the success and power that alliances can create.